Review Summary: Delain continue as they always have, losing none of the enthusiasm that they have sustained throughout their career.
Delain may have a reputation as a generic symphonic/gothic metal band that merely imitates the big names such as Within Temptation and Nightwish, a reputation that I can't entirely argue with, but I'm certain that I'll always have a place in my heart for this band, however predictable they may be. They serve to me as both the first band with full-on symphonies that I listened to (Cryoshell
notwithstanding), and also the beginning of my reviewing hobby. The sole reason I posted my review of Lucidity
was because I felt that it deserved one. It's not a very good review, but it got me started nonetheless. So I feel that it is only appropriate now, with much more experience as a writer, that I return to Delain when they are in need of a review.
We Are the Others
was the album that ultimately cemented Delain's place in the European metal scene, after the testing of the waters on Lucidity
and the struggle to get their feet planted down on April Rain
. Those who know the band will not be surprised to learn that The Human Contradiction
continues in a similar vein as We Are the Others
, with a knack for pop-like songwriting and themes of dystopia, inhumanity, and the expected fare of finding a place in society and relationship evolution. "The Tragedy of the Commons" takes a look at the pollution of the environment and those responsible, both "Your Body is a Battleground" and "Army of Dolls" examine the media's pressure to be "perfect", and "Stardust" and "Sing to Me" show that Charlotte Wessels has not let her muse of yearning and breakup sorrow run dry. While none of these concepts are new at all, Delain has one thing going for them that other groups of their kind do not: energy.
When a band begins their career, they may not be good at their instruments, or even particularly good songwriters, but are able to thrive off the enthusiasm that they have for their craft, unique or not. Most acts lose their enthusiasm as time goes on, succumbing to the pressure to "mature" and in the process, losing what made them enjoyable in the first place. The Human Contradiction
may be Delain's fourth album in nine years, but they've hardly lost any of the enthusiasm that ultimately made Lucidity
enjoyable. It's this energy that makes nearly everything about the album enjoyable if not impressive, even generic tracks such as "Stardust".
Nobody in the band embodies this quality better than Wessels herself. Even while tackling serious world and social issues, she never looses her direct and frank style in the slightest. Her vocals still remain the best thing about Delain, articulate and indicative, even if not unique.
It's the sole time that Delain attempt a "mature" song where one fault of The Human Contradiction
becomes apparent. Opener "Here Come the Vultures" attempts to be atmospheric and mournful, but the song builds up to nothing, and only feels like a large amount of wasted potential. "The Tragedy of the Commons" falls equally flat, but for different reasons. The song is decent enough at first, but when they let Arch Enemy
vocalist Alissa White-Gluz step up to the microphone, she proves that she is far from a natural fit for the Delain sound, and only serves to unpleasantly surprise the listener.
While on the topic of guest appearances, it is of note that The Human Contradiction
contains a sort of throwback to Lucidity
in terms of the guest roster. Both Marco Hietala of Nightwish
and George Oosthoek from Orphanage
show up here, and both accomplish significantly more on their respective tracks that White-Gluz does on hers. While some may raise their eyebrows at Hietala's presence, he fits quite well into where he has been placed. His commanding, gruff tenor adds a great deal of texture to both "Your Body is A Battleground" and "Sing to Me", with the lyrics fitting his voice like a glove. Oosthoek works equally as well on "Tell Me, Mechanist", with his performance here outmatching his spots on Lucidity
by a considerable amount. He feels much more suited to Delain now than previously, amounting to more than unfocussed fury this time around. While some may feel that Delain over-does it with their guest vocal spots, The Human Contradiction
gives little to complain about in this department.
As commercially viable (relatively speaking) as The Human Contradiction
may be, it would be a mistake to dismiss it off of such credentials. It's certainly more preferable than Within Temptation's similar approach on Hydra
, which lacks the same energy that Delain has still managed to hold on to. While unremarkable, The Human Contradiction
shows Delain doing what they do best: making catchy symphonic metal with poppy vocals. And really, those who know Delain couldn't ask for more.